I was talking with my daughter the other day and farts came up. Not literally, just the subject. And she mentioned a term that we’ve all heard and used – Silent But Deadly. I thought for a second and asked, “Why is it but ?”
But is a conjunction, used to introduce something contrasting with what has already been mentioned. So by using the expression silent but deadly, you’re inferring that the first word – silent – is in contrast with the last word – deadly. That although the fart is silent, it is also deadly. That the fart is silent, however it is still deadly. Logically, it is an assumption of a primary expectation that somehow silent farts are, by definition, implicitly docile. That a noiseless, cheeky tune observed only by canines cannot stimulate the olfactories. That if a blind man three blocks away doesn’t think a death metal song just erupted, there’s no danger. That silent exhalations are not inherently deadly. Is this true?
Come now. Think about it for a minute. You’ve whiffed many an air biscuit in your day. Don’t say you haven’t. I know you have, because I know human nature. What’s the first thing you do when you think that someone has produced farticles? You sniff, gently. Oh, you can make a show for everybody about how disgusted you are, and how nasty the whole affair is, but in the end (no pun intended), you take a whiff. Why? Because we have to know. We can’t stand not knowing. Did they fart? Are they just craving attention? And if they did, just how bad was it? Is it evacuate the room, or shelter in place? Did they just create a new bacterium, or faking the nether belch for show? So tally them up. The noiseless and the jet engines in the ponds. Which was the worst bratwurst bugle? I say it’s a close call. But not on a whim. I have a fartpothesis.
If you think about the psychology behind the moment itself, it’s very telling. When someone delivers a message from the Interior in such a manner that suggest they were attempting to lacerate the person’s leg behind them and incinerate everything within five square yards, it’s a decisive measure. This person’s exuberance is a forthright exclamation. I am ripe. Hear me roar. They want you to grimace, take cover, and wave your hands like you’re being attacked by African Killer Bees. They are proud. They claim it with pride. Perhaps they wish for an award of some type. And although they have given you warning, it can certainly be deadly. Perhaps this is even more psychologically harmful, as it fills victims with increasing anticipation and dread.
Then there are the silent ones. And perhaps we should examine exactly why it’s silent in the first place. Was it born this way? Or did the perpetrator design the effluviate with no ripple on purpose? Was it a shameful display of stealth, perhaps? Anonymity in the elevator? A nameless execution in the name of unbearable pressure and stigma? Or was there something darker and more sinister at work? We’ve all been there. That moment when you get ready to let one and the viscosity alarm goes Defcon 4. You tighten. You’re adrenaline kicks in. Eyes dilate and calculations are made that are not part of one’s daily, mathematical routine. How many feet to the bathroom? What are the odds I can pull this off without complications? Where is my closest pair of backup underwear? When was the last time this happened? Is there a horrible pattern developing here? And so, depending on these calculations, you begin a delicate procedure of anal osmosis, ever watchful of something trying to slip through unannounced. It is a time for uninterrupted concentration. You are skillful and desperate. You are . . . silent.
When all is done, you may be as proud as the next guy, but you don’t flaunt this win. It was too close. You are happy to count your blessings and be done with it. And this is why a silent one might be considered a little more deadly. It was more likely that it had help on the way out, it’s solid neighbors chipping in as it passed through the hot gates and entropy took its hold. So is a silent one always deadly? Maybe. Maybe not. Probably more often than not, though. And for that reason I say that the phrase silent but deadly holds no weight. It should be silent and deadly. We should give the silent ones their due, and stop letting a cliché expression continue on its illogical course without question or contemplation.